Region 7 Class B Tournament brings cheers, tears

Hazen's Bison Sports Arena witnessed an epic battle between the top-ranked team in Region 7, as Bowman County and Dickinson Trinity move on to semifinals

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Hazen's Bison Sports Arena witnessed an epic battle between the top-ranked team in Region 7.
Dickinson Press file photo

Editor's Note: Dickinson Press sports writers are in Hazen and are unable to upload photos or videos to this story. As a result, this story will be updated in the coming days to include a gallery of photos and videos from the games.

HAZEN, N.D. – Over the weekend, it didn’t look possible.

Between the snow that fell, and that which was due to fall, the Region 7 Class B Boys Basketball Tournament was in deep jeopardy of being postponed. But come it did, and the games on Monday warmed the hearts of some and left others cold to the bone, as four teams advanced to Tuesday’s semifinals.


Hazen’s Bison Sports Arena was packed to the gills for most of the day, and those who showed up for the opener between Bowman County and Killdeer experienced one snow-monster of a game. The Cowboys were wired-for-sound and came out shooting, taking advantage of a string of 3-pointers that seemed to stretch on for minutes at a time in the opening period. Killdeer sank 4 tres over the span of a 16-7 run – and five 3-pointers all-together in the first, that gave KHS an improbable 21-16 advantage at the end of the opening eight minutes, and just kept on the pressure from there.

The Cowboys lassoed the rim again in the second period with more excellent outside shooting and interior post play when it was needed and Bowman County was forced to bide their time and hope for an opening at some point to stage a comeback. Killdeer outscored the Bulldogs, 18-2 on one run and 20-13 in the quarter to take an even more improbable 41-29 advantage over the top-ranked team in Region 7.


“We had a game-plan that we started with that we were going to try to shut down the many good players they have,” Killdeer coach Greg Pruitt said. “We were going to pick our poison, and we thought we did a pretty good job of playing the triangle … but what it came down to is in the first half we played a little bit better defensively than we did the second half.”

Bowman County coach Ronnie Stewart echoed some of those sentiments, but had an impassioned discussion with his team at the half.

“We knew this team [Killdeer] was going to travel well and they didn’t have to go as far and they brought a great home crowd,” Stewart said. “This was a team that had nothing to lose and this was a team that truly believed that they could beat us and we knew that they were going to come out with high energy and things could possibly go their way.”

RedSky Starr had a breakout 12 points in the first 16 minutes, including two 3-pointers, and Owen Schleppenbach dropped in another 12 to help pace the Cowboys. But Bishop Duffield – who staged one of the best performances in Region 7 all season – kept the Bulldogs close with 15 of his own (more on that later). Starr would add another 10, for a team-high 22, and Schleppenbach ended up with 17 in the game. But there was a long way to go for both teams.

Well, whatever Stewart said in the locker room at halftime worked, because the Bulldogs came out in the third period like a completely different team. The next eight minutes were all Bowman County, as the Bulldogs (19-2 overall) went on a tear and drilled shots from inside and outside, with sharp-shooting and penetrating play that kept the Cowboys on their bootheels. BCHS drilled five 3-pointers in the quarter and completed three-more 3-point-plays that not only put Killdeer’s star forward Red Sky Starr in foul trouble but kept the Cowboys gasping for air as they completely erased Killdeer’s lead.

The game was knotted at 59 heading into the final frame, and from that point-on the two teams traded punches the rest of the way. Bowman County benefitted from solid outside shooting again – with a crucial tre from Bohden Duffield – and a pair of converted 3-point plays again by Bishop Duffield, that gave the Bulldogs a 69-61 advantage with 5:09 remaining, and they never looked back. BCHS converted six shots from the charity stripe down the stretch as Killdeer tried to claw its way back. But it wasn’t enough to stay in the game for the Cowboys, who fell to 13-10 on the season.

“I think in the second-half we got tired, but I’m proud of our kids; we were the eighth seed playing the number-one seed and they were the returning region champions,” Pruitt said. “We had them on the ropes, but we’re a young team.

“With this three-class system coming in, it would have been nice to finish out this Region 7 in the top-four. But I’m happy with the way our kids played and I think we’ll have a great summer workout, and we’re just going to keep improving,” Pruitt added.


Killdeer benefitted from double-digit performances by Jekori Dahlen, who added 13, and Jaxon Reese’s 11 in the game, while Bohden Duffield poured in 20 points down the stretch and Roman Fossum added 13 for the Bulldogs – including a pair of timely 3-pointers.

For his part, Bishop Duffield scored a game-high 40 points and added another game-high in rebounds with 11, to go along with 4 assists and shot 46.7-percent from the field.

“I’m proud of myself, and this win gave us a lot of energy moving forward,” Bohden Duffield said. “I think we can do great in the next two games.”

With a game versus Hazen – which beat Glen Ullin/Hebron, 74-56 – on the 5 p.m. (MST) horizon Stewart had no time to rest on the laurels of the amazing comeback.

“What we had to do is take possession and clean up our shot-selection and we have to start getting rebounds without giving them second-chance points,” Stewart said. “We were able to get the in foul trouble, which also helped us as well, but what it was is possession-by-possession and we went on a 6-0 run to end the second half and go from an 18-point deficit to 12, which was huge for us.”

“We’ve also got a very competitive group and they did not want to let this one slide, so hat’s off to them.”


The second match of the day wasn’t as tense, but didn’t lack electricity.

The home-standing Hazen Bison (15-7) were able to ride herd on the Bearcats, 74-56 in their game, but it wasn’t until a breakout third quarter sealed the deal. Glen Ullin/Hebron kept things close through the first two periods, posting only a 10-12 deficit at the end of the first and 25-31 as the teams headed into the locker rooms at the half.


Kanyon Unruh posted 7 of his team-high 16 points for the Bearcats (17-6) in the first half to keep things close, while Will Mickelson poured in another 8 from low-post play. Hazen’s Talan Batke was a dynamo in the first half with 13 of his game-high 25 points and Rylan Van Inwagen drained a pair of 3-pointers to help the Bison charge ahead in the opening 16 minutes.

But from there it was all Hazen, as the third quarter broke open for the Bison on a 12-4 run that led to a 43-32 lead at the 5:25 mark in the third that they never gave up for the remainder of the game.

Tyson Wick had a lightning second-half for Hazen, pouring in 19 second-half points on brilliant 3-point shooting with five tres in the final 16 minutes. Meanwhile, Unruh drilled a trio of tres of his own for the Bearcats, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.

“They shot the ball excellent, once those two guys (Batke and Wick) get hot – one had 25 and one had 21 – they had 46 of their 74 points, it’s tough to stop that,” Bearcats coach Bruce Schatz said. “And it’s in their home gym, and that is tough.

“We didn’t get any breaks, and we didn’t make any breaks.”


Heart River came into the tournament ranked 10th and facing off against Beulah – which lies 6 miles up the road from Hazen – was heavy duty for the Cougars for all four quarters. In truth, Heart River never could get on track in the game and didn’t score their first field goal until the 5:41 mark in the second period of play. The Cougars only scored two field goals in the opening 16 minutes of play, with Austin Buckman adding a 3-pointer, while senior guard Cade Wyant notched four of his team-high 12 points on free-throws as the two teams headed into the locker room with the Miners up by an insurmountable 41-9 halftime lead.

The second half saw somewhat more scoring for Heart River (11-12), as Wyant added 8 and Buckman and Evan Walter added 4 each. But the Miners dug the Cougars a deep hole on double-digit scoring from Bennett and Tarren Larson – each scoring 12 – and 11 more from Champ Hettich and Jack Koppelsloen, while Aidan O’Brien scored 10 to close out the Cougars.


The nightcap of the Region 7 Class B Tournament quite literally could have gone either way, as the two teams came into the contest virtually with the same records and potential for victory. It was a battle of wills, throughout, as Beach opened the game with a 7-2 run and Dickinson Trinity responded with a 9-0 run to close the first quarter at 11-7 in favor of the Titans (15-7).


But the Buccaneers would not be denied their bounty, managing a 7-3 run in the second en-route to closing the gap to 21-18 as the teams left the court at the half. Jake Schobe paced the Titans with 7 first-half points and Trey Swanson responded with 6 of his own – out of a team-high 12 in the game – to keep Beach from being washed away.

The second half was nip-and-tuck, with both teams posting mini-runs that left the contest in doubt, throughout. Trinity’s Anthony Spradley and Nicklaus Sobolik drained timely 3-pointers in the third quarter, while Beach’s Justus Baker and Elijah Holkup responded in-kind in the second half.

But, down-the-stretch, Jake Schobe proved to be the second-half standard-bearer for the Titans, adding 9 points in the final quarter to help outlast the Buccaneers (14-9). Schobe had a game-high 21, and no other Titan ended up in double figures, while Beach’s Shem Baker joined Swanson in double-figures with 10.

“The first game of the tournament, you never know what’s going to happen, and I thought they did a nice job defensively and got after us and we didn’t attack it,” said Trinity coach Gregg Grinsteinner. “We need to do a better job of attacking and the same thing on the defensive end: We wanted to take a few things away and we kind of sat back a little bit too much.

“I don’t know if it was first-game jitters or whatever, but this time of year it’s survive and advance and it doesn’t matter if you play really well and you lose by 1 or you play ugly and win by one. Just move on to the next round and that’s what’s happening right now, so we’re pretty excited about being able to play in the semifinals.”

That win sets up the nightcap tonight with Beulah at 6:30 MST, with the games being broadcast on KDIX for interested parties unable to make the trip to Hazen.

Gaylon is a sportswriter from Jensen Beach, Fla., but has lived all over the world. Growing up with an athletic background gave him a love of sports that led to a journalism career in such places as Enid, Okla., Alamogordo, N.M., Pascagoula, Miss. and Viera, Fla. since 1998. His main passion is small-town community sports, particularly baseball and soccer.
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